January 30, 2009 (by SSgt. Thomas J. Doscher) - After 47 years of service without a single hit, a C-130 with the 386th Expeditionary Operations Group here has flown its last combat mission and will be retired to the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz.
C-130E no. 62-1847 from 37th AS passes through the ceremonial water spray from two fire trucks at an air base in Southwest Asia after completing its final combat mission on January 28, 2009. After 47 years of service, the aircraft is being retired. [USAF photo by SrA Courtney Richardson]
Airmen in the 386th EOG and 386th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron celebrated the retirement of aircraft no. 1847 by dousing the aircraft with a deluge of water from two fire trucks as it taxied in from its final mission.
"She's a good plane," said Capt. Kevin Graham, 737th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron aircraft commander. "We never had any problems with her."
Captain Graham flew 1847 on numerous missions and was glad he was able to fly it on its final combat mission.
"We flew it over its 30,000th hour mark," Captain Graham said. "It's cool that we got to fly it down here, past its 30,000th hour and its final combat mission. It's impressive that we can have an aircraft that's 47 years old and still in the fight. You can't live without them."
Aircraft 1847 accumulated 30,100 hours over its 47-year career, the equivalent of flying three-and-a-half years without landing.
Staff Sgt. Brad Kretschmer, 386th EAMXS, deployed from Ramstein Air Base, Germany, spent the last three-and-a-half years as 1847's dedicated crew chief. He said the old Hercules still has plenty of fight left in her.
"She's done this much for us so far; I think she's got a lot left in her," he said. "You're not going to see many of these flying around still. Most of them are retired or at (Davis Monthan AFB)."
Sergeant Kretschmer said while the aircraft never had any combat damage or other major accidents, its age required crew chiefs to put a little more care into the Vietnam War-era Hercules.
"This one is just older," he said. "It's got its old age going for it, so we try to take a little more care of her so she can keep flying. We catch the little stuff here and there and fix it. There's always something. She has her little gremlins."
Col. Herbert Phillips, 386th Maintenance Group commander, credited the maintainers for giving 1847 the ability to rack up more than 440 flight hours over 340 sorties during this rotation.
"It's above-standard-mission-capable-rate over the course of this deployment is a tribute to the maintenance crews who ensure she is ready to meet all taskings," he said. "It is particularly amazing when you consider the age of the aircraft is older than the ages of the two crew chiefs added together."
Sergeant Kretschmer said the crew chiefs will spend the next few days removing mission-essential equipment from 1847 and preparing to send the aircraft back to its home base at Ramstein AB, but it won't be going home alone.
"I'll be on its last flight home," Sergeant Kretschmer said. He is also preparing to finish his deployment. "I'll do my farewell on the way home."